Will the Naga national workers from ENPO region ‘surrender’?

Z. Lohe

A local paper published an article on 28th June, 2023 under the caption “Centre keen to demand ‘surrender’ by Naga national workers in ENPO region”. “ … the Centre Govt. is keen to demand ‘surrender’ and laying down of arms by Naga national workers in Eastern Nagaland.” “Sources say as part of the package deal for Frontier Nagaland, something on these lines may be worked out with conceding to few key demands by the ENPO.”  “The Centre will however bank a lot on respective tribal leadership among the 7 tribes to attain necessary pressure on the militants.” 

The above quoted passage is the reportage of a professional journalist who divulged certain content of how the deal is being worked out between the GoI and the ENPO for ‘Frontier Naga Territory.’ Such arrangement of ‘surrender’ may be implemented or may not happen when the deal is struck. Nevertheless, the ‘surrender’ of the Naga national workers hailing from ENPO region may be a major component of the deal which may be so either under duress by the pressure from GoI or out of mutually bilateral agreement. Yet, as appeared in the paper, the Centre may exert pressure on ENPO to opt for tit for tat. Quoting sentences from the same story “The Centre will however bank a lot on respective tribal leadership among the 7 tribes to sustain necessary pressure on the militants. Most Naga militant groups in the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) are headed by underground leaders from Eastern Nagaland.”  It implies that for any popular demand of ENPO, the Centre may compel the Naga national cadres from ENPO region in particular to surrender in exchange for such public demand through the respective tribal authorities.

Smoke is produced only by fire. Similarly, whether such proposition is acceptable amongst the ENPO tribes or not, the agenda is obviously under circulation as reported. Reacting to the said paper report, NSCN/GPRN (Khango) has “advised ENPO not to succumb to the carrot and stick tactics of the Government of India” as appeared in local papers dated 30.6.2023. The Ato kilonser Hokato Vushe “has remarked that such an act would have an irrevocable far-reaching consequence; and would be considered as a treacherous betrayal to the Nagas.”  The opinion and the advice of the NSCN/GPRN on the issue of ‘surrender’ are self explanatory. “However, the content in the charter of demands should not in any way, suppress, or hijack the legitimacy of the inherent Naga political issue, and there should be a fine demarcation between the two paramount issues.”  The quoted contents in the statement made it clear that the Naga political issue for which the negotiations with the GoI have been going on is totally different from ENPO issue. Therefore, each issue has to be managed separately without mingling nor any Naga political agenda be diluted by clubbing it with any ENPO demand.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Naga National Workers Association (ENNWA) while expressing its “solidarity with ENPO on any form of solution for economic and social upliftment of the region” until and “….unless it infringes on the Naga political issue” as appeared in local papers dated 6.7.2023. There is no ambiguity in the given statement that the ENNWA supports the demands of ENPO so long as no such item or action plan conflicts with the common interest of the Naga political issue. And when such is the awareness of the Naga national workers, apprehensiveness is unnecessary. 

What ENPO aspires is for improvement of the region’s economic and developmental aspects and thus different from the political issue of the Nagas. Therefore there is neither confusion nor can there be any chance of interest clash between the ENPO and the Naga political negotiators.  As and when the ENPO issue is resolved that will be the answer to the people of ENPO region in particular and not the Nagas a as a whole. 

In view of above, how the Centre is engineering a split within the Naga national workers as though the unity of those groups or the unity of the workers remains to be the roadblock to resolution of the ENPO issue or issues.  It is unbecoming on the part of the GoI to take undue advantage of the situation to marginalize the status of the ongoing political negotiations by planting division in the rank and file of the Naga national workers. The attempt is unethical, backstabbing and betrayal of each other’s confidence since the ongoing political negotiations are bilaterally mutual and a serious legal business which are yet to be concluded.  

Whatever may be the coercive inducement of the Centre to weaken our political strength, we cannot afford to become subservient to such ploy. Should anyone succumb to feign designs under any circumstances, it would be the greatest betrayal to the Nagas at this juncture.